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Turnpike ticket leads Lee police to rape suspect

By Ellen G. Lahr
Berkshire Eagle Staff

GREAT BARRINGTON -- When a state police officer stopped Gene Paul Walbert Jr. of Lee on the Massachusetts Turnpike in Becket for driving with a broken taillight early Wednesday morning, the officer writing the ticket didn't suspect the woman in the passenger seat had been kidnapped in Holyoke.

But, according to an account yesterday in Southern Berkshire District Court, Walbert, 40, told the 19-year-old woman "to her keep her mouth shut, or he would beat and kill her if she said anything to the state police."

Woman beaten, bloodied

Hours later, at 7 a.m., the woman was found beaten, bloodied and only partially clothed, on Summer Street in Lee, her assailant nowhere nearby. But in recounting the attack to Lee Police, the woman mentioned the turnpike ticket, which police tracked to the home of Walbert on Tabar Avenue.

Assistant District Attorney Joseph Pieropan said in court that it was the woman's description of the 3 a.m. traffic stop that helped police identify Walbert. She also picked Walbert in a photo lineup that included pictures of eight men, and some of her belongings were found in Walbert's car, said Pieropan.

With his parents seated in court, Walbert, wearing jeans, a polo shirt and sneakers with the laces removed, pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, rape, aggravated assault and battery, and cocaine possession. He asked the judge for a court-appointed lawyer.

Judge James B. McElroy agreed to the request, and set bail at $10,000 cash or $100,000 surety. Bail had initially been set at $500,000pendingyesterday's hearing.

Pieropan lobbied for bail of $100,000 cash or $1 million surety, highlighting Walbert's lengthy 20-year record. He served 11 years in state prison for a 1986 conviction on charges of kidnapping, armed robbery and assault, and has other serious convictions as well, Pieropan said.

Court-appointed lawyer Harry Conklin objected to Pieropan's high bail request, countering that Walbert's past record shows no failures to appear for court dates. He asked for $5,000 bail.

Walbert, who lives with his parents in Lee, has not worked in more than three years because of a disability, said Conklin, adding that Walbert requires medication for depression and is prone to serious headaches.

According to Lee Police reports, police were called at 7 a.m. Wednesday to Summer Street, near the Foxhollow Resort and condominiums. They found a young woman huddled in the truck of a Foxhollow maintenance employee, who had found her near the road. She was missing some of her clothing and had only one shoe; she was hypothermic and in shock, said Pieropan.

The woman was taken by ambulance to Berkshire Medical Center's emergency room, and was later admitted to the hospital, police said.

According to police reports, Walbert forced the young woman from a Holyoke store into his car, and headed west. The woman reported that she believed she had been taken to a park and been assaulted about 30 minutes before she was dropped off near Foxhollow.

Pieropan said that because the woman was hospitalized and sedated Wednesday, she had not yet provided police with a full statement.

Lee Police Sgt. Joseph Buffis said yesterday she was still hospitalized. However, because the names of sexual assault victims are not released by police, a condition report could not be requested.

Walbert's case was continued until Jan. 20 for a hearing, but the case will likely be transferred to the Superior Court through a possible grand jury indictment, sources said yesterday.

Police and Conklin said yesterday they were unaware of any prior relationship between Walbert and the woman.

Conklin, a bar advocate on call this week for indigent clients, represented Walbert yesterday only for his arraignment. McElroy assigned the case to the Committee for Public Counsel Services, which handles serious felony cases.
 

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VOR";p="52104 said:
So much for those who think defective equipment stops are "chickenshit".
YA!!!
amazing what performing the mundane and/or routine L.E. tasks can lead to.
:wm:
 

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One of the sad things is that the Supreme court in its decisions has been forcing the traffic stop to only last as long as the paperwork is produced. Not to say that the Trooper would have been anymore inquisitive, but that is one of the reasons for carrying on a conversation other than "Lic and registration pls" and treating any public contact as simply routine. You never know. Stay Safe
 

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If only the poor girl had known that if she started flipping out in any way during the stop, the trooper would have known to dig deeper. What a sick bastard that Walbert is.
 

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VOR";p="52104 said:
So much for those who think defective equipment stops are "chickenshit".
Exactly VOR!! Those co-called "chickenshit" stops are where we find alot of shit. Shame on anyone that doesn't stop cars for these "chickenshit" violations. You don't have to write ALL of them tickets, but you should stop and inquire... you'll be surprised with what you may come up with.
 

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Amen to that brothers. I can't the judge set bail so low, another example as to why they should be elected officials.
 

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Bail? Your folks actually set bail? Out here you can chase a guy who is OUI, has a 3 year old in the front seat, failing to stop for Police, and finally catch him in the next town and all he gets is released on PR on the $40 fee. :shock:
 
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